Crystal Castles, HEALTH, Team Ghost

Gwyn Bandfield 12/10/2010

First to take to the stage out of an impressive bill tonight are Team Ghost, the latest musical foray from Nicolas Fromageau, former portion of m83 and veteran shoegazer.
Inevitably for a relatively unknown band playing bottom of the bill on a weekday, the turnout isn't huge, and a good portion of those huddled close by the stage seem to be more interested in the bands French accents than what they're playing. But it's their loss, as Team Ghost treat us to a quick run through of some of the highlights of their first two EPs, ""You Never Did Anything Wrong to Me" and "Celebrate What You Can't See",
fusing atmospheric synths and glitchy electronics with thick slabs of hazy guitar. Despite a few sound troubles "A Glorious Time" chugs along blissfully, and the moment the piano intro in "Signs and Wonders" ruptures into sweeping guitar chords sounds all the more epic live. But despite impressive material to work with, Team Ghosts live show comes across as a little under ambitious. Their stage set up consists of a live drummer, guitarist, bassist and singer with other elements of the song added as a backing track, and while you can see why did this with some of the electronic samples and synths, when a part of the song as prominent as the piano in "Signs and Wonders" is reduced to Fromageau stooping to press a button before the song starts, it seems a little lackluster.

While Team Ghost might have had some trouble capturing the audience's attention tonight, second support band HEALTH have no such difficulties in making their presence known. I've always wondered why the band insist on writing their name in capital letters, but after experiencing how bone-shakingly, tinnitus-inducingly cacophonous they are live, you can see it's a name that must be shouted. Stamina is not usually a quality I look for in a musician, but you can't help but be impressed by the furious pace in which the two drummers on stage manically pound away for the duration of the set, while the other members twiddle with knobs and dials sending out glitchy bleeps, abrasive synths and piercing digital squeals, and singer Jake Duzsik stands amidst the chaos adding soft, hazy
vocals. The relentless "We are Water" from their last album is utterly ferocious live, and even the more refrained "USA Boys" gives the audience's ears a pounding. HEALTH give an utterly rollicking live performance, made all the better by the sight of dainty, topman-clad hipsters starting some kind of bizarre mosh pit.

After the aural sucker punch that was HEALTH, Crystal Castles have quite task ahead of them in leaving their mark on the audience, but it's a challenge they rise to with aplomb as Alice Glass announces the bands arrival on stage with a gut-wrenching scream, and the three ghost-like silhouettes emerging through the thick fog covering the stage launch
into the dissonant “Fainting Spells.” Glass sees the audience as just a writhing, fleshy extension of the stage, and wastes no time immersing herself from the off, and impressively manages to perform her vocal duties whilst flailing around like a ragdoll on the sea of hands. I was skeptical before the gig that the bands trademark thrash- pop might wear a little thin across a whole hour, but Crystal Castles play a surprisingly diverse sounding set. Songs from the new album like “Doe Deer” and previous hit “Alice Practice” are still present, and do their job of sending the crowd into a sweating frenzy, but “Celestica” and "Pap Smear” verge on pleasant synth pop, latest single “Baptism” plays like the haunted remains of some anthemic trance, and there's something very ethereal about the way Glass lolls about the stage to the tinkling “Pap Smear.”

Tonight's show is proof that although still capable of their infamously chaotic gigs, Crystal Castles newer material adds some musical substance to their performance, and cements them in place as one of the best live bands around.